Cris Perkins, associate vice chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents, presented the organization’s highest award to two Walters State Community College donors during the fall meeting of the Walters State Foundation trustees.
The Wilma Geane “Kitty” Pope Estate received the award for 2022 and the Cooper-Burchfield Foundation received the award for 2023.
“Each year, the Tennessee Board of Regents recognizes an organization or individual that has given special assistance to a TBR institution,” Perkins said. “Known as the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Philanthropy, the award focuses on individuals or organizations that have given generous resources to a TBR institution, including volunteer time and expertise.”
Pope spent her formative years in Kingswood School, which was then a children’s home in Bean Station. She cared for her classmates and for animals. Her classmates gave her the nickname “Kitty” due to her fondness for cats. The name stuck throughout her lifetime. Her passion for helping others led to a long career in nursing. She attended Baptist Nursing School and spent over 30 years as a registered nurse working in East Tennessee. The last 20 years of her career were spent at the Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System.
One of Pope’s favorite responsibilities as a nurse was training Walters State nursing students completing clinical rotations. She had struggled to pay for education and wanted to ease that burden for other students. At her direction, the Wilma Geane “Kitty” Pope Estate donated $403,000 to establish an endowment benefitting nursing students. Thomas Brennan, trustee of the Pope estate and a Walters State Foundation trustee, will receive the TBR Chancellor’s Award for Excellence. He was unable to attend the meeting.
The Cooper-Burchfield Foundation was formed in 1991 as a way for two families to support needs in their Sevier County community more effectively. Norman L. Burchfiel and his aunt Ethel Cooper centered the Foundation on education and the needs of children.
The Cooper-Burchfield Foundation was liquidated in 2021. Funds were given to several organizations including the Boys and Girls Club of Sevierville, the Robert F. Thomas Foundation at LeConte Medical Center, the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, the Holston Home for Children and Walters State.
Norman Burchfiel and his wife Josephine were supporters of Walters State for many years, giving both time and money. Their daughter, Emily Kile, has served on the Walters State Foundation Board of Trustees and the Executive Committee. The third generation of the Burchfiel family is now serving Walters State, with Kile’s daughters Jaclyn Kile and Julia Clinton, having been elected to serve as trustees.
The Cooper-Burchfield Foundation has supported Walters State for 25 years and given more than $100,000 to the college. The TBR Chancellor’s Award for Excellence was presented to Kile and her daughters.